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The United States and Mexico have a long, and intricate history of cooperation, economic integration, and conflict. While legal immigrants have been welcomed in the United States for centuries, the number of illegal immigrants searching for a conducive life has been on the rise raising concern for our national security. Trump’s pledge of building a border wall dates back to the announcement of his candidacy wherein an incendiary speech, he stated his main goal to stop illegal immigrants from entering the country. Throughout Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, he pledged to build a large impenetrable wall that would be constructed between Mexico and the US. One year since he took over as the president of the United States, the first phase of the billion dollar project has begun. Supporters of building the border wall between Mexico and the U.S argue that it will prevent drug trafficking and illegal immigrants from entering the U.S; however, it should not be built because it will hurt the economy, would be ruinous for the environment and impinge on U.S citizens’ property rights.
Impact on Economy
After detailing the monetary cost of building the Mexican border wall, the question that lingers is, is it worth the total cost? What purpose is served by the construction of a surmountable border fence? These questions are not only asked by young activists but also, every individual American citizen. Moving beyond this controversial debate, more important questions arise on the impact of building the wall on the U.S economy. Initially, Trump claimed that Mexico would foot the bill. However, the government of Mexico under the rule of Enrique Pena countered that Mexico would never pay a single cent for the wall (Semple 14). President Trump and his administration seldom acknowledge that an already existing wall exists that stretches for a distance of 700 miles along the two countries. United States federal government has invested an upwards of US$2.3 billion for construction alone (Deeds and Whiteford 4). Moreover, according to Deeds and Whiteford, the annual maintenance budget of the already existing border wall costs a total of US$500 million annually. This is due to factors such as terrain, costs of building materials, surveillance costs, costs of land, wall design and the scale of barriers.
Trump’s proposal seeks, however, to extend the height of the existing wall and extend it to cover the full border. A recent GeO estimate of the total cost following Trump’s proposal is estimated to be around US$ 21.6 billion (Semple 15). His administration proposed policies for financing the project. One of the policy is to tax imports from Mexico which would in effect transfer the burden to Mexico. Another policy suggests taxing migrants remittances by encouraging the transfer of jobs to the United States from Mexico. The most crucial policy is transferring the burden to the United States citizen, as a taxpayer and American consumer. This means that the president’s suggested policies would be bad for American business, and for American taxpayers. The enhanced border wall will ultimately result in a trade war that would negatively affect the U.S economy. Mexico is among the largest trading partners of the U.S contributing to American business exports to an upward of US$ 231 billion (Semple 15). There are already calls in Mexico to start to boycott American goods such as U.S corn exports and therefore, these will have a negative impact on the economy.
Ruinous to the Environment
The border between Mexico and the U.S along Texas is home to many native animals, insects, and plants. The construction of the wall would, therefore, have an impact on the biodiversity of the area. The army corps of engineers in the second phase of the project is seeking to build a levee that would further place a never-ending stress on the indigenous wildlife habitat. According to Peters, Ripple, and Wolf (1), the 3200-kilometer US-Mexico border wall construction would have an unintended but a significant consequence to the existing biodiversity of the area. The wall threatens some of the continent’s renowned biological diverse regions by reducing the area for animal migration, the quality of habitat for these wild animals, and the connectivity of plant and animals as part of the ecological system that is crucial for the survival of some of the existing distinct species of plants and animals. The project once implemented, will compromise the more than a century of binational conversation.
According to Epps, Flesch, Cain, Clark, Krausman, and Morgart (171), the US-Mexico borderlands traverse six ecoregions that contain vegetation types that include; temperate forests, desert scrubs, woodlands, semidesert, and plain grasslands of a broad Nearcritic transition zone. Moreover, their study suggests that the zone supports an extraordinary biological diversity listed under the Union for Conservation of Nature. It includes 429 endangered species and 62 critically endangered ones. Trump’s administration will more often with the aim of overseeing the project to its completion, understate and misrepresent the harm that would occur to the biodiversity. The border wall will, therefore, harm the wildlife population by eliminating, fragmenting and degrading the wildlife population habitats.
Impingement on U.S citizen’s Rights
The imposing monetary cost of building the wall across Mexico-US borderlands comes with a cost. The negative consequences of border enforcement will be felt by thousands of families living along the border. The social costs as suggested by Slack, Martinez, Lee, and Whiteford (7) encompass the impacts on families and individuals living in the U.S cities and the neighboring communities in Mexico. Forced separation, as well as the fear and anxiety that result as a consequence of the wall construction due to the separation of families, will have a lasting impact on the U.S citizens rights for those living near the border. Additionally, the massive amounts of land that will be acquired for more sophisticated electronic surveillance equipment and for general surveillance near the wall, will have an impact on the U.S citizens leaving near the border. While the U.S agencies responsible for the construction must have an environmental impact assessment for the project, Trump’s administration will focus on seeking the waivers from the environmental regulations in order to implement the project thereby altering the land owned by most Americans near the border.
In 2005, the US Congress passed the Real ID Act, that gave the Department of Homeland Security authority to waive any laws that will slow the construction of the project (Semple 13).
With these laws sidelined during the first phase of the construction, the project will be implemented without any great consideration to the depth of the environmental impact analysis.
In conclusion, the construction of the wall will have an impact on the biodiversity of the region, impinges the U.S citizens’ property rights and it will hurt the economy. However, the supporters of the project argue that it will prevent drug trafficking along the border. The borderlands adjacent to Mexico is renowned for an alarming volume of drugs trafficked into the United States. The number of drugs seized at areas adjacent to the border amount to millions of dollars which sponsor cartels, murderers and has influenced the growing drug problem in America. As such, building the wall that includes numerous surveillance systems will reduce the cases of drug trafficking.
Deeds, Collins, and Scott Whiteford. "The Social and Economic Costs of Trump's Wall." Voices of Mexico 1 (2018): 1-5.
Epps, C, et al. "Potential Effects of the United States-Mexico Border Fence on Wildlife." Conversation Biology (2010): 171-181.
Peters, Robert, et al. "Nature Divided, Scientists United: US-Mexico Border Wall Threatens Biodiversity and Binational Conservation." Bio Science (2018): 1-10.
Semple, Kirk. "Trump and Mexican President Speak by Phone Amid Dispute Over Wall." New York Times 27 January 2017: 14.
Slack, Jeremy, et al. "The Geography of Border Militarization: Violence, Death, and Health in Mexico and the United States." Journal of Latin American Geography 15.1 (2016): 7-32.
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